Whether it’s connecting with customers, closing the deal with prospective clients, or promoting efficiency within your own operation, the quest to effectively cultivate and communicate your message is ongoing. One strategy that has recently gained traction is data visualization. Given today’s fast-paced, cut-to-the-chase world, this makes perfect sense. We want our information, we want it now and we don’t want to have to put much thought into digesting it.

The effectiveness of data visualization goes beyond our shrinking attention spans -- it speaks to our biology, according to Noah Iliinsky, co-author of Designing Data Visualizations.

“Our visual system is extremely well built for visual analysis,” Iliinsky explains. “There’s a huge amount of data coming into your brain through your eyes. Once that data arrives at the brain, it’s rapidly processed by sophisticated software that’s extremely good at tasks such as edge detection, shape recognition and pattern matching.”

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It is this pattern matching, Iliinsky notes, that makes presenting information visually so beneficial, as it helps us identify trends, gaps and outliers. In other words, it allows us to see the true meaning of the data.

For businesses, this begs the question: How do we best leverage the value of data visualization? Here are three recommendations:

Infographics: the storyteller. As defined by Mashable, a prominent tech website, infographics are “graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge” that “present complex information quickly and clearly.” Done well, it delivers your message by weaving together thorough research and compelling copy with an engaging design.

What makes infographics such an effective marketing tool is two-fold: First, by including SEO-friendly terms, they can drive new users to your website through increased search visibility. Second, because they can easily be shared on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, they have a tendency to go viral, which obviously extends your brand to a wider, untapped audience.

Dashboards: data central. Businesses generate large amounts of data on a day-to-day basis, from potential leads, to what products are selling best and the hours dedicated to each client. Making sense of that data can be a challenge. Spend a few minutes poring over endless spreadsheets or reading through an exhaustive report, and it can feel undeniably overwhelming.

This is where dashboards come in. A centralized command center that compiles all of your pertinent data, they make it easy to see what’s going on within your organization. Stephen Few, a leading user interface dashboard expert, explains it like this: “(a) dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives, consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.”

Businesses enter data into the back end of the dashboard, and the dashboard then processes and produces it in a way of your choosing -- graphs, charts, tables, etc. -- that best fits your needs.

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The value that a well thought-out dashboard brings to your company is far-reaching. It gives you the means to easily analyze trends, which allows you to hone your marketing strategies, helping you to optimize sales and customer engagement. It takes the man hours that would previously have been devoted to sorting through acres of data and redirects them towards growing your brand. Simply put, dashboards rid your operation of any unnecessary waste, which, in turn, raises productivity, lowers costs and increases your bottom line.        

Mobile apps: a match made in heaven. While infographics tell a good story quickly, and dashboards organize and display your data, mobile apps marry the two together. Designed with a focused flow to connect with all audiences, apps are a versatile interface for your business, giving users as much or as little detail as they desire.

For those who want to get a high-level view of your company, scrolling straight through an app from start to finish will give them what they are looking for. Working almost as an interactive infographic, successful apps utilize compelling copy and appealing visuals to construct a road map of sorts, communicating in broad terms to the user what you are about, what it is that you do and what you can do for them.

On the other hand, for those who wish to explore your brand a little deeper, taking advantage of the built-in stops along the way allows them to drill down and access additional documents, charts, graphs and other nuts-and-bolts data. It is in these sections of the app where you can show -- instead of just telling -- the true value you can provide.

Best of all, as the name suggests, mobile apps are, indeed, mobile. And once they are downloaded to a person’s tablet or smartphone, they can be accessed without an internet connection. This means that no matter where users go, your brand is always right there with them.

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